Okay, it’s been almost two years since you left, and this is my first correspondence. I’m sorry; I just didn’t want to have anything to do with you anymore. Even avoidance gets old, however. I am having to deal with your house now. I need to sell it, and it’s needed a lot of work, so I have been forced back into the scene of your last stand. Here is what is coming up for me:
First of all, you know I love you. And I know you love me. I often forgot all that back then. As a bad habit, I still forget it now. I need to work on that. Ours was not a hearts and flowers kind of love, but it was love all the same. Otherwise we could not have borne what we did together.
When I go into your house, what I immediately think of is all the pain we both experienced there. But what I feel in unexpected waves is the love of two people trying to take care of each other in their own awkward ways. I’m not sure why my mind goes to the dark side, why it doesn’t follow my heart. The painful visuals are so engraved into my minds eye that they take over the scene. I have been told it is a legitimate form of PTSD, and that it will take a long time to recover from the war we both fought for so long.
You got drafted into an old person’s war. You were a captain, and I was your . . . “subaltern” is the word that comes to mind (all those British novels I’ve read, I guess). I look it up; yes, it works: “an officer in the British army below the rank of captain, esp. a second lieutenant.” Except for the British part; but it’s a great word so we will use it. It sounds like a less official position than “second lieutenant”, more accidental, and so I was. So there we were for almost ten years, being strafed and bombed by an enemy we thought we knew, but knew only enough to fear it. Fear begets anger, and so we were often angry; you outwardly and nastily, me inwardly and depressedly. Anger is a self-inflicted wound, and I have the scars to show it. But I never showed it to you; that much I know I did well.
There were moments, however, sometimes hours or even days – cease fires, if you will – where we cautiously relaxed a little and busied ourselves with the day to day. We both knew the enemy planes were always overhead, but if there was enough cloud cover, we pretended. We shopped, we watched a ball game. We went for bike rides, we petted the cats. Inevitably, the low drone of the bombers came back, and we found ourselves in battle once more. It seems that eventually the enemy infiltrated our ranks, and pitched battles were replaced by insidious subterfuge; things missing or changed around, tainted food, and a pernicious miasma that imbued everything. That’s when you began to weaken. I did, too. Our greatest fear was then not the presence of the enemy, but the knowledge that he was never going to leave until you did. It was a forced surrender, and as best as I can remember, you did it with dignity.
Oddly, I don’t remember a lot from that time; the fog of war, as they say. What I remember too well are the earlier years and the sickening slide into a world neither one of us anticipated or wanted to enter. You stayed in your house, however; you never gave ground that way. The enemy had to take you on your own turf.
Have I milked this metaphor enough? Probably not for you; of all your life’s experiences, your time in WWII looms largest and most significant of all. You loved to talk about the war. And even though it is only a metaphor, it is the closest experience I will ever have that mimics a war in it’s hideousness and spiritual depletion. I am lucky; I only had to fight this one war. You had to fight two. May I say, Captain, that in both cases you comported yourself with merit and should be proud of yourself. I am very, very proud of you. And I also remember now that I love you.